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The gathering that helps you make friends, right where you are

We’ve moved so many times that for years my blog was called The Gypsy Mama. And when we arrived at the house we now live in, it would take two years before I made any real friends. I don’t know about you, but somehow it’s harder to make friends during the minivan driving years than the pigtails and playdoh years.

It can feel awkward trying to connect with other women beyond the sporadic play dates your kids might have.

The thing about women is that we always assume the girl next door, the women across the aisle, the mom in the car pool lane, your husband’s best friend’s wife, your cousin, great aunt or the stranger in the dressing room next to you at the mall has it figured out. Whether “it’s” how to balance motherhood with, well, anything else really. Or how to manage her temper or style her hair or stock her fridge or connect with her husband or make new friends.

We’re always certain we’re the only one who feels awkward or incompetent or left out or frumpy or you-name-it.

For nearly two years after we moved to Virginia I assumed that all the other women at church knew each other.

At the same time I kept hearing women online talking about their deep desire for real community and their simultaneous fear of trying to connect.

Seems like I wasn’t alone after all.

And I kept wondering how we could bridge the gap between our desire for friends and our discomfort at trying to make them. In many ways, that was the beginning of the dream of the (in)RL conference. Short for (in) real life – you know, like the acronym “IRL” that all our teenagers are so familiar with – we started to imagine an event that instead of bringing women half way around the country, would connect them right where they are. That might be the impetus for stepping out and making a new friend.

So with a global webcast and local meetups, we did just that. We stepped out of our blog boxes and connected with women in the neighborhood. We started to make friends. Friends who might stop by with a meal when life was crazy or offer to pick the kids up after school one day.

Last year nearly 2,000 women from 24 countries participated (in)RL. You can read some of their stories here.

And today FREE registration opens again for the (in)RL {in real life} conference. And beyond the new friendships, I’ve got three more reasons you should register:

  1. It’s FREE!
  2. Everyone who registers today and TODAY ONLY gets a copy of our (in)courage 365 Daybrightener while supplies last (US residents only).
  3. Everyone who registers TODAY AND EVERY DAY gets a copy of our first eBook: Best of the Beach House 2012: A Collection of Your Favorite Posts from the Writers of (in)courage.

Last year (in)RL explored the nitty gritty of community. This year we’re taking a closer look at what it takes to stay rooted in community when sometimes just walking away would be so much easier and tons more convenient. Women share stories of how they’ve chosen to stay through hard marriages, challenging parenting, worthwhile friendships. How choosing to stay has freed them more fully and unexpectedly than if they’d cut and run.

We’d love you to join us. Just click here to register.

And you can check out the (in)RL trailer below.

top photo source

Reading Time:

2 minutes





  1. Alia Joy

    Love this, Lisa Jo and just so you know, you do community like a boss. Seriously the best! Can’t wait.

  2. Johanna

    I’ve moved 5 times in 6 years of marriage, so I’ve had to learn to become an expert at making new friends….so hard sometimes, but so worth the effort.

  3. Stephanie

    I really like this! 🙂

  4. Melissa Jones

    Fyi, there’s something screwed up about your “click here to register” link. From my feed reader, it said that it was “void” and took me to a blank page. From the article itself, it sent me to a 404 Page Not Found error. The link from “And today FREE registration opens again for the (in)RL {in real life} conference.” gets you to the right place. Looks like there’s an extra embedded html tag or something in the “click here to register” link.

    I’m registering right now! We’re starting a women’s Bible study tomorrow and I think this’ll be a great chance for us to connect some more!

    • Lisa-Jo @lisajobaker

      Thanks for that Melissa! And yay for joining us!

  5. Jami

    I am excited to meet up with the women in my area. I also had to use the today FREE link to register. Thank you for this opportunity.

    • Lisa-Jo @lisajobaker

      Thanks Jami – we’re fixing the broken link and thrilled you’re joining us!

  6. Stephenie

    Thanks for this…making friends in strange new places is on my mind in a big way at the moment, so I am keen to try any route available!

  7. Heather T.

    Somehow, I managed to read through this and register before I discovered that this was a religious thing. Sad for me, but still a great idea! Perhaps it can still serve as inspiration for finally meeting more people in my area, so thank you for that motivation.

    • Lisa-Jo @lisajobaker

      Hey Heather – sure hope it helps you connect with other local women, because everyone is welcome, Christian or not. Truly.

  8. Kathy

    This looks like an answer to prayer– how great! I have a problem, though. We have an out-of-state wedding that weekend and I won’t be able to take part in any of the conference activities. Is there any option for me to participate?

    • Lisa-Jo @lisajobaker

      Hey Kathy – it will all be streamed live and available on demand all weekend, so perhaps you can sneak in a session or two at some point? 🙂

  9. Nina

    I guess I’m lucky since I’m fairly rooted to my area and all my family and in-laws are here. I’ve never felt the need to make friends for myself. I joined a few mom groups in the past for my son’s benefit but even that was difficult to maintain. For me, friendship is a hit or miss; you click with some and others you don’t, and I didn’t want to keep forcing friendships that didn’t seem real.

  10. Lisa

    I signed up! I missed out last year…Just procrastinated. Nothing like signing up on the first day. 😉

  11. theresa

    This is great! I am so glad I stopped by!

  12. Margaret Feinberg

    Oh my– that little one in the photos is just adorable! What a cutie!

  13. Sherri Phengchard

    I was just crying yesterday after going to church and still feeling lonely even after having moved to Austin over a year ago. This post and video really spoke to my heart. I can’t wait to register and see what God has in store.

  14. Laura

    As a wife of a Air Force Pilot, I’ve had to move my family quite a few times and we are currently facing another move in May. I feel like it takes me 2-3 years to get settled and build a community and just as I am getting comfortable, we have to move again. I have definitely felt like an outsider many times and it is good to know I’m not alone. Thanks for posting, I came here for to look for another post and found this and it certainly spoke to me today!

  15. Tabitha (From Single to Married)

    I’m glad I stumbled upon your post today as I’ve been struggling with this issue myself as of late. We moved into a new area four months ago and I’m realizing how long it may take us to feel a part of the community. My isolation is compounded by the fact that we are expecting our second child (due in March) so diving into a lot of new groups and such is tough since the timing doesn’t seem the best. Between that and a rough first trimester right when we moved in, my social interaction has been rather limited. Glad to know that it can get better and that it just takes time. And effort of course. 🙂

  16. renee @ FIMBY

    I know you mention 24 countries but this seems like a real american thing to me. As a woman living in rural, francophone, secular (way secular) quebec I’m guessing there’s not a group here. I remember looking last year and in my initial search today I didn’t see anything. But it’s still early.

    I sometimes feel these things are presented as being accessible to anyone but are really designed with a certain woman in mind, in a certain location. Namely, large US cities in a neighborhood with a megachurch, or just a church around the corner. Where people aren’t actually connecting, just attending.

    And it seems kind of strange to me that we need internet meet ups and webcasts with organized talks and presentations to connect with people in our neighborhood. Why not invite people for supper? Be involved in your community activities etc.

    I guess I have a hard time processing all this internet/in-real-life stuff. It seems we’re really disconnected from who we are as humans if in real life is so difficult to do. I just don’t know… I’m not trying to be critical but to instead look at our relationships and disconnection critically and what we can do about that when (in)RL is not an option where we live.

  17. Lisa-Jo @lisajobaker

    Hey There Renee,
    Yea, hopping over to a neighbor’s house is exactly what we think of when we think of (in)RL. And women who are already doing that, already comfortable connecting and have a real life community, we think that’s the greatest thing. It’s just that we’ve heard from so very many women who don’t. And we figured if we could create an impetus for them to make a local connection, it might be the seed of a real life friendship that could outlast the event. That’s our heart. And if they don’t ever watch the webcast, if all they do is talk and hang out – well that’s an absolute gift. Several meetups were like that last year. The women were hungry for the community. And if we can encourage even a few women to connect (whether they ever participate in our event or not) we’re happy.

    • renee @ FIMBY

      This is late, almost one month later, but I was thinking about this again and wanted to be clear Lisa-Jo that I am not criticizing the event. I think it’s wonderful to connect people together, however it works!

  18. Jessi

    when I was reading this it really sounded like just what I need but watching the trailer it seems more like a religious thing and I am Jewish so not sure its really somewhere I would fit :o(

  19. Trina |

    Learned about this recently and RSVP’d. Only 3 so far in our local meet-up, but looking forward to it, and seeing where it will lead!

  20. Social Lady

    This was a great post! I know how hard it can be to connect with other women once a large life event occurs (retirement, move, divorce, empty nest, etc.). It’s never too late to find new friends and develop meaningful, lasting friendships. Great to see another avenue for women to meet and support one another!

  21. Jasa Banner Murah

    Oh my– that little one in the photos is just adorable! What a cutie!

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